Mike Halford

CALGARY, AB - MAY 5: Fans of the Calgary Flames pass around a large flag prior to Game Three against the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome on May 5, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Report: Flames to sign Czech League goalie Rittich

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Calgary has inked David Rittich, a 23-year-old goalie out of the Czech Extraliga, per various reports — including this one from hokej.cz.

Rittich spent last season with BK Mlada Boleslav, posting a .919 save percentage and 2.50 GAA in 48 games. He stands 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, but doesn’t have a huge resume, and has little to no experience representing the Czechs at any major international tournaments.

That said, the signing is still interesting.

For one, it continues in an offseason in which the Flames already snagged someone out of the Czech League — power forward Daniel Pribyl, who’s aiming to open the year on the club’s top line next to Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

Secondly, Calgary’s lack of depth in net means any goalie signing is intriguing.

Jonas Hiller is gone, having signed in the Swiss League. So too is Niklas Backstrom, having signed in Finland. It’s unclear if Karri Ramo will be brought back after suffering a season-ending ACL tear in February.

Joni Ortio is still in the mix, but he’s the lone guy with NHL experience (and still needs a new contract for next season). Prospects Mason McDonald and Jon Gilles still need a fair bit of seasoning, and presumably won’t be rushed to Calgary — all of which could open up an opportunity for Rittich to see some minutes next year.

According to a Calgary Herald source, the organization is “high on Rittich’s skill set, and feels he has potential.”

NHL mourns loss of ‘the incomparable Gordie Howe’

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Shortly after news broke of Gordie Howe’s passing Friday morning, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman issued the following statement, honoring the life and times of “Mr. Hockey.”

From the league:

“All hockey fans grieve the loss of the incomparable Gordie Howe.

“A remarkable athlete whose mastery of our sport was reflected by the longevity of his career and by his nickname, ‘Mr. Hockey,’ Gordie’s commitment to winning was matched only by his commitment to his teammates, to his friends, to the Red Wings, to the city of Detroit and – above all – to his family. His devotion to Colleen through her illness and the fact that he extended his playing days into a fifth decade so he could play with his sons are only two examples of that true priority in his life.

“Gordie’s greatness travels far beyond mere statistics; it echoes in the words of veneration spoken by countless players who joined him in the Hockey Hall of Fame and considered him their hero.

“Gordie’s toughness as a competitor on the ice was equaled only by his humor and humility away from it. No sport could have hoped for a greater, more-beloved ambassador.

“On behalf of the generations who were thrilled by his play and those who only know of his legend, and on behalf of all the young people and teammates he inspired, we send heartfelt wishes of condolence, comfort and strength to the Howe family and to all who mourn the passing of this treasured icon of our game.”

The NHLPA added the following statement:

“With the passing of Gordie Howe, the game of hockey has lost an icon. Gordie, or ‘Mr. Hockey’ as he was known to legions of fans, was a true legend who had an immense impact on the game, the Players who followed him and the fans who revered him. On behalf of the Players and staff of the NHLPA, we join Howe’s family, friends and fans on mourning his loss.”

Related

Hockey world pays tribute to Howe

Dan Patrick reflects on Mr. Hockey

‘The greatest Red Wing of all time’

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 22:  Gordie Howe #9 of the Detroit Red Wings sits on the bench during an NHL game against the New York Rangers on November 22, 1964 at the Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.  (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)
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Gordie Howe was beloved across the National Hockey League, but nowhere more than in Detroit.

Howe, who passed away at age 88 on Friday morning, spent 25 of his 26 NHL campaigns in the Motor City, and is considered the greatest athlete to have ever performed there — ahead of the likes of Joe Louis, Ty Cobb, Al Kaline and Barry Sanders.

Mr. Hockey’s status was further cemented today by Detroit’s GM, Ken Holland.

“He was one of the greatest players, if not the greatest, in the history of the National Hockey League and the greatest Red Wing of all time,” Holland said, per the Associated Press.

The franchise’s all-time leader in games played, goals and points, Howe’s No. 9 was sent to the rafters almost immediately following his retirement in 1971. Then, in 2007, the Red Wings erected a 1,500-pound bronze statue in his likeness.

“Not too may things choke me up,” Howe said at the time, per ESPN. “So I guess that’s the way of expressing the feeling that I have.”

Howe eventually came out of retirement to play for a couple of different teams — the WHA’s Houston Aeros and New England Whalers, and one final NHL campaign in Hartford — but will always be identified with the winged wheel and the city of Detroit.

Literally.

In 2015, then-Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a long-planned bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit would be named after Howe.

More, from the Detroit News:

Son Murray Howe, who spoke for the family, said it is “truly, truly an incredible honor.” He recalled the story of his grandmother who came from Germany to Windsor for a better life.

“So Windsor is where it all began,” he said. “How fitting that this is where the bridge begins. When I told my Dad that the bridge would be named in his honor, he said, ‘That sounds pretty good to me.’ He is deeply moved by this gracious gesture.”

In the end, it’s clear Howe will be remembered in Detroit for more than his on-ice achievements. He transcended hockey and became a fabric of the community, and will forever remain that way.

“He was a big power forward, one of the biggest players of his time, with as much skill and toughness as anybody who ever played,” Holland said. “As a human being, he was incredible. He loved to be around people and to make them laugh. He was an incredible ambassador for the sport.

“This is a sad day for hockey.”

Video: Dan Patrick reflects on the legacy of Gordie Howe

Tributes have come pouring in this morning in the wake of news that NHL icon Gordie Howe — “Mr. Hockey” — passed away at the age of 88.

One such tribute came courtesy NBC Sports’ Dan Patrick, who reflected on the life and times of Howe during his eponymous radio show.

Some great anecdotes in here, including one from Wayne Gretzky about the time he saw Howe meeting with Muhammad Ali.

Oh, and here’s the ESPN commercial Patrick was talking about, when Howe “roughed up” Keith Olbermann.

‘Mr. Hockey’ Gordie Howe passes away at age 88

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One of hockey’s greatest and most iconic players has died.

Gordie Howe, who played more games than anybody in NHL history, passed away on Friday morning at the age of 88, per the Detroit Free Press. His passing comes nearly two years after recovering from a serious stroke.

In March, Howe celebrated his 88th birthday at Joe Louis Arena with the Red Wings — the organization he spent 25 of his 26 NHL seasons with.

Born in Floral, Saskatchewan in 1928, Howe made his NHL debut in 1946, at the age of 18. He went on to become one of the most dominant players of his era, capturing four Stanley Cups, six Hart Trophies as league MVP and another six Art Ross trophies as the league’s top scorer.

Howe retired in 1971, but came out of retirement to play alongside sons Marty and Mark, and spent his final NHL campaign in Hartford during the 1979-80 campaign, at the age of 51.

In doing so, Howe became the oldest player to ever play in an NHL contest, a record that remains unbroken.

MORE: Reflecting on the legacy of Gordie Howe

In the aftermath of his playing days, Howe was celebrated across the league and beyond. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and his No. 9 was retired by the Red Wings — and in 2011, he was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.

Last year, it was announced that a long-planned bridge between Detroit and Windsor would be named after him.

“This is joining two countries, two jurisdictions, two communities in what is a very strong and important relationship,”then-Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, per the Detroit News. “And I don’t think we could think of a better person who symbolizes that relationship better than Gordie Howe.”

MORETimeline of Howe’s remarkable career